Alkis CharalambidisYiorgos Hatzakis: Another way of religious painting
The intentional anatomical disfigurements, the incomplete chromatic dressing of some parts, the reds which bring into mind open wounds, and the yellows of illness, the saints who either turn their faces away or look at us sorrowful, the tiny human figures which are crowdedly shut in chromatically neutral paintings within paintings, the incomprehensible texts and the inscriptions which instead of facilitating the approach, they make it more difficult, keys and other symbols in marginal positions, which nobody knows as what they can serve, all compose hermetic expressionistic entireties.
A permanent “horror vacui” does not leave not even an inch of painting surface inoperative. The transcendental immobile depth of Byzantine pictures, gives its place sometimes to a crowd of saints and sometimes to chromatically differentiated, abstract units which surround the central depiction in a suffocating way. Sometimes in particular, elements of the background “attack” the central figure, they displace it, and up to a point, they substitute its parts, making the association of levels impossible, and undoubtedly, the conception of space problematic.Overcharged with subjective experiences, Hatzakis’ paintings during this place, reaches a tragic dead-end in the level of cosmic theory, but aesthetically promises much for the future.
Professor of Art History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
On the occasion of the exhibition which took place at PAPOK (Pan-Hellenic Cultural Centre) in 1981
Yiannis RitsosIn front of Hatzakis’ paintings
A few months ago, at the attic of a gallery, I came across Yiorgos Hatzakis’ paintings for the first time. I knew nothing of him. I had not even heard his name. His paintings nailed me down. Here is a true painter, I said, who does not need comments, interpretations, classifications to schools, explorations of influences, crossings, mixings. He sweeps you off your feet from the first minute, he takes you and he is offered to you as if a secret agreement already exists. Maybe the Byzantine breath that runs through Hatzakis’ paintings is a first preparation of reception – the general memory, both historic and aesthetic. But it’s more than that. Because Hatzakis is not a reproducer or an imitator of the art and the technique of Byzantine religious painting and its chromatic scale. He is not a dogmatic icon-painter with established patterns which define (and impose) the exact size of the wings of the angels and archangels and the breadth of the haloes. In Hatzakis’ paintings, there is no draft of the drawing or of the chromatic relations. The mixing of warm and cold colours is not based on memorised mathematical rules, but on an acute and clear sense, which instinctively achieves the most precise and “demanding” analogies. Thus, Hatzakis’ colours send forth emotion, utilizing and validating the painter’s great talent. And (with or without a halo) one does not know whether they are ancient saints of Christianity or contemporary saints, workers or farmers, tortured and furious, of the great everyday struggles for freedom.
Prologue on the catalogue of the exhibition which took place at the Gallery “Yakinthos” in 1983. Athens, September 21, 1983
Alkis Charalambidis“Contemporary Martyrs”
He depicts his “Martyrs” mostly alone, with a spear in hand, often with wings on the shoulders and haloes around the head, seemingly dominant on the painting’s surface. He wants them to be masculine, ethical – in the broadest possible sense of the term – with the sobriety of heroes of an ancient tragedy and with the immovable faith of Byzantine saints; monumental figures, which refer to a verbal and an iconological ambiguity: testimony – torture; winged figures of ancient art – angels, St John the Baptist of Christianic iconography; “good athletes” who are weighing at this time the results of their game; with faces which are sorrowful, strict, sometimes furious by dignity about the futility of their effort; ecstatic, prophetic in front of what they see is coming; in front of the future, which has already begun transforming into a bleak and dreadful present.
The antithesis which is forged in Hatzakis’ works is shocking. On the one hand, the man “beautifully portrayed”, the Martyrs who typologically relate to the figures of saints from the previous phase of his work; on the other hand, his surroundings with the factors which beget destruction; a place where all the descriptive elements have been expelled; with conflicting colours within a crazy game of one corroding the other, within a nightmare of volcanic eruptions and nuclear weapons; with sharp forms or protean patterns which consume the young bodies and stain the pure faces; with lines which violently plough the painting field and aggravate the already shaped sense of anxiety and insecurity, the tendency to surpass the natural limits of the painting and the feeling of decay. In the picture which remains, the expressionistic intensity is combined with the universality of abstraction.
Nikos GregorakisA few words on Yiorgos Hatzakis’ paintings
These figures, “contemporary heroes”, capture the spectator from the first minute, by imposing either a spellbinding atmosphere which sends forth holiness or an ecstasy stemming from the intensity which springs from the heroic figures. Coming out from the mists of chronologically indefinite and vague historical period, anthropomorphous testimonies, faded by time and environmental erosion and “written beautifully” through an expressionistic writing with a completely personal style.
Kifissia, October 1983
Yiorgos KaravassilisWhen a heretic at the catacombs
Yiorgos Hatzakis is a genuine, pure, but also demonical heretic painter. But, which is the basic characteristic of his heresy and from where does it stem? Hatzakis, born and bred Cretan, who was forced by the course of his life to spend much part of his life in Northern Greece (and perhaps this emigration contributed to the definition of his stigma), carries within him the famous Cretan religious painting – but only as a starting point, as a preliminary outline of his art. However, as in some churches somehow distant and as in some small churches in the country, in canyons, forests and caves, we unexpectedly meet the heretical hand of the painter of religious paintings, which restless, wishes to harmonise the Orthodox faith with the mystical streams of the East or to revive through it, ancient pagan worships or to even imprint on the saints’ faces his own opinion, misleading the believers with knowledge and certainty, Hatzakis also in this way “tricks” the inexperienced with a miraculous way.
Their struggle “gushes” through their eyes, every inch of their body, even the most peaceful one, gathers in and releases the suffering and the tyranny, for the sinking and the discovering of the true face. A breathtaking descent, which encloses the good and the bad, and which constantly seeks to overcome both the good and the bad, where life and death are one and the same.
One could argue that Hatzakis gives a different power to the religious painting, that he exerts his own creative critique for this glorious Byzantine art through his painting and let me compare him – as I have imagined it, because I haven’t seen it anywhere else – to the cunning and very talented heretic artist, who has not found a better place to work than the Christian catacombs of the first centuries after Christ, who was obliged to paint certain religious paintings, but through them he was presenting his own “blasphemous” volcanic world – and why wouldn’t he, based on the facts which existed then and these that exist nowadays.
Magazine “The Tree”, issue 4-5, January-March 1984
Athena SchinaA means of approaching a pictorial testimo
Yiorgos Hatzakis’ themes include figures and landscapes, which bear embossed testimonies of an adventure, a decay, a complete alteration, an arduous torment.
Especially his figures are identical to saintly figures of martyrs, from the manner of negotiating their plastic form. Pain has not only been conveyed on them by its expressionistic characteristics, but it has also been composed by allusional relations to certain traditional Byzantine models. The figures, synthetically and eccentrically highlighted, create means of surfacing from their background of both the Cretan post-Byzantine icon-painting and the icon-painting of Caracci and Caravaggio. The chromatic shading of the background (siennas, ombras, ochres) with the smooth manner of the brushwork and the palette-knife, charge these models with experience, models which expressively tend to become monuments of their tortures by setting boundaries to their vital space.
In Yiorgos Hatzakis’ landscapes one meets similar negotiations concerning his space. Through a universally dark surface, which makes the spectator suspicious of the stirring-ups and the fermentations of the form and colour, the space is expanded with bursting brightness, so as to express spectrally a function “in the offing”. It is about the function of deconstructing and reconstructing the chromatic mass, which forms the conditions of creative revelation and promotional function of the behaviour of the form. A form which is suspected to be born dissolving and transmutated, with open links to the new charges of associations in relation to form and manner.
From the catalogue of the exhibition at the Gallery “Antinor” in 1985
Vivi VassilopoulouYiorgos Hatzakis
Here, the artist expresses himself through collective or personal experiences, memory, history, religion, pain and loneliness, whereas the spectator has no trouble identifying some models: the figures emerge from the painting’s background and sick again within it, while Byzantium and its angels sleeplessly “observe”. Sometimes the saints “lend” their halo, so as to be completely identified with the man. The dramatic element is especially highlighted in the ethos of young martyrs of all kinds of prosecutions.
From the magazine “Pictorial Arts”, issue 42, 1985
Alkis CharalambidisAncient Greek Themes in Contemporary Greek Painting
The themes which are conveyed into Mytaras’ works stem from the ancient Greek art. Yiorgos Hatzakis, without being in a diametrically opposed position, draws ideas and findings of figure from the world of Byzantine and post-Byzantine portable icons and murals. His stimulus is related, up to a point, to the atmosphere of old churches. However, the process of decay which his figures undergo springs explicitly from personal experiences. His red colours resemble to open wounds, his yellows are sick, the greys are hypotonic. His “Saints” in the beginning and his “Martyrs” following (table 190, 1-2), often having wings on their shoulders, spears in their hand and haloes around their head, are monumental figures which bear witness to the truth, but are tormented at the same time; they believe and they think. Their faces are sorrowful, sometimes roused by dignity. As Yiannis Ritsos writes: “one does not know whether they are ancient saints of Christianity or contemporary saints, workers or farmers, tortured and furious, of the great everyday struggles for freedom”. Their background is abstract, which does not convey the feeling of divine bliss. It has been transformed into a field of conflicts, outbursts, malign agony, where the expressionistic intensity is combined with the universality of abstraction.
Professor of Art History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Honorary Volume for Manolis Andronikos, v. b΄, page 939
Editor: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 1987
Bia PapadopoulouByzantine Art and Descriptive Expressionism
The art of Hatzakis is metaphysical. Dark colours which foreshadow death and the Byzantine gold which stands like eternity and thus, like a symbol of eternal life. Red lines connecting the figures within the same painting, which bring the dead and the living souls together.
The script of gesture, a script whose form resembles the painting of Yiannis Spyropoulos, freed the expression and the deeper “being” of the artist. The same script reveals his deeper reflections, his personal fear and anguish for the contemporary world, a world full of hostile threats.
(from the column “Pictorial Arts” of the newspaper “Acropolis”, November 20, 1988)
Reflections on Yiorgos Hatzakis painting
(in this way) ancient heroes, Byzantine saints and angels coexist in juxtaposition to contemporary figures; one feels a dialectical and two-way relation, where there is mutual influencing and mutual charging. The irrational game of life and death takes place in an area which is dark, unknowable and alarming, with unverified shapes or symbols, letters or numbers, which preserve their hidden meaning. The few red lines which impress on the dull colours or frame the synthesis can be either life or its cost, the blood of martyrdom. The disintegration and the decay seen on the figures of contemporary drama, give away the intensity of sentiments and the material and spiritual corrosion. Sometimes the surroundings – and not the figure – are transformed. That which is undefined and incomprehensible becomes everlasting and undying through the use of gold, which in this case also preserves the functionalism that has gained as a symbol of the transcendental and the eternal, especially in Byzantine art. The anguish and the sacrifice guarantee eternity.
In this space of anguish and decay, where one wanders like Oedipus of the ancient myth and tragedy, startled and imbued with the taste of destruction and the shadow of death, the female figure is absent. The female figure, which is by its nature an affirmation of life, as it is the vehicle of life, does not belong here.
Lecturer of Art History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Efthymia Georgiadou-KountouraA note on Yiorgos Hatzakis’ painting
I often discover in astonishment that Bacon’s views, maybe because of a selective relation, comment on Hatzakis’ way of painting in the most appropriate way: “If you love life very much, then its shadow, that is death, follows you everywhere. It’s nothing else but the opposite side of the same coin” (David Silvester, p. 78, about Bacon, see also “A creator of images – Francis Bacon”, The Sunday Virus from the magazine E of the Newspaper Eleftherotypia, May 17, 1992). Hatzakis’ obsession with life is expressed through the human figure, which is the dominant presence in his works. Certainly, at times, he experiments on a distinct type of landscape painting which, however, reflects, even in a negative way, the human presence.
Ancient heroes and Byzantine saints coexist with contemporary fighters of unattainable ideals and all together, with the marks of their sublime beauty, their holiness and their torture, all compose a tragic dance of martyrs, whose sacrifice did not change the world’s fate.
He customarily works in series form – Bodies, Images of Saints, Neo-martyrs – because it is difficult for him to condense in a single painting all the images he wants to present; in this way a succession of pictures gives fuller expression to what he intends to say.
In his last series, which he refers to as “Images of Men”, he applies a unique technique, which consists of imprinting figures on canvas, when the canvas is pressed upon an engraved table, where the figures are embossed. The feeling of the reverse of this “engraving” is supported by the dominant antithesis between white and black.
Therefore, the elements which compose life: the accidental, the irrational, the decay, constitute the basic and fundamental object of Hatzakis’ painting. He especially insists on the decay, which takes the shape of the inevitable fate. The decay of the painting material is the decay of ideals, the dissolution of values and symbols of different eras, which are considered to be very important in the artist’s conscious. Today, when Peace, Justice and Freedom are empty words and man is tragically threatened by unforeseen disasters by nuclear weapons and the environmental pollution. Hatzakis takes refuge in other worlds and eras when these threats did not exist and which are regarded as paradise lost.
At the end of the 20th century, the artist through his work plays the role of spiritual intermediate, who is seeking the way towards purgation through the labyrinth within which he is found beyond this time and space. And again, according to Bacon: “he does not illustrate reality, but creates images, which are a stenography of sense”.
Associate Professor of Art History at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Efthymia Georgiadou-Kountoura“SUPER-SCRIPTIONS” BY YIORGOS HATZAKIS
Ever more inarticulate
No more sentences
No more words
Symbols for letters
Instead of the city, only stone
Instead of the body, only a claw
More yet: a bloody
Under the microscope.
(Manolis Anagnostakis, Poems, 1941-1971).
Yiorgos Hatzakis’ art is anthropocentric.
In series like, Images of Saints, Neo-martyrs, Images of Men and the recent Super-scriptions, he attempts to synthesize in visual form his thoughts on the tragedy of human life. Hatzakis customarily works in series form, because he finds it difficult to condense within the scope of a single painting all the images he wants to present: a succession of pictures gives fuller expression to what he wants to say.
Each painting in the series Super-scriptions is the formulation of a question about the issues of life and death, a question without an answer. Ravaged figures with sharply defined eyes – or rather eye sockets – crowd the painting surface, row upon row or scattered across the canvas, in varied and ever-different groupings which bear witness to the struggle of their creator to achieve balance and harmony. The figures are a reprise of archetypes which memory haw summoned from the past: ancient heroes, Byzantine saints, modern warriors. Occasionally a figure may be indicated or isolated by a circle; another may be designated or wounded by an arrow.
Texts, all illegible, fill the spaces between the figures: inscriptions from a variety of periods, illuminated initials from old manuscripts, scattered letters, assorted numbers. And since these communication codes are fragmentary and unable to fulfill their purpose, they heighten the atmosphere of enigmatic unfamiliarity created by the coarse figures arising from the sullen, turbid colours of the plain. Even the dark frame, where there is one delineating the scene, is frequently broken by fragments of text, figures, or segments of figures.
Successive scrubbings-out and re-writings give the paintings the appearance of palimpsests, but with the added suggestion that nothing is new and that man’s struggle for existence is as old as mankind.
Colour has a particularly important function in the work of Hatzakis. If clear colours express joy and felicity, the colours here – muted earth tones, dirty pinks, grays, blacks – speak of struggle, impasse, misfortune, death. On rare occasions a touch of bright blue opens a tiny window of hope. The few lines of red, where they exist, could be taken as indicating the margins of human life which, according to Akrithakis, is prohibited area which we enter unwillingly and as unwillingly we leave (To Vima, 25/9/1994).
It is obvious that Hatzakis envisages the future with trepidation and, findinga sure footing in collective memory, which he reshapes in creative fashion, accentuates in every possible manner life’s elements of irrationality, chaos, fortuitousness, incomprehensibility, decay – and persistence.
Hatzakis’ personal style, in which his figures are stamped on canvas stretched over a board with figures carved in relief, makes an ideological statement and fulfills in the most perfect fashion the artist’s intention of expressing density of emotion through compaction of material.
Hatzakis’ work is a confirmation of the axiom reiterated by Alexis Akrithakis in his most recent interview: ‘’The sole sustenance of art is life itself’’. His subject matter is the fortuitousness, the incomprehensibility, the irrationality and the decay which make up human life. Decay in painting is the decay of the ideals rooted in the consciousness of the artist, while unforeseen disasters haunt mankind like nightmares, for men have realized that they have no control over the fate of the world nor yet, naturally, of themselves. Nonetheless, with reflection and the wisdom of pain the artist sets down his vision as a testament to life and invites those who look at his pictures to share it with him.
University of Thessaloniki
Filimon Hatzis“Super-scriptions”: Yiorgos Hatzakis’ latest creation
At Vafopoulio Cultural Centre on December 30th
Super-scriptions create a border-space between the conscious and the unconscious, between the passion of chaotic blackness which cannot be spoken, cannot be symbolised and cannot be communed and which often frames the paintings and the earthly colours of love and desire, which struggle to define the indefinite breach and rejoin the weathered symbolic chain of signs, colours and texts.
The figures constitute a significant point of the exhibition’s paintings. Familiar, but also distant figures. Dear, but also inaccessible figures. Figures of decay and exertion. Figures – dematerialised metonymies and metaphors of the painter’s soul and our soul. Figures that are looking at us straight in the face, as if in a dream.
With their places, their colour and their passion, the paintings’ figures compose a polyphonic dialogic entirety. Within this entirety, through a series of psychic identifications and sympathies, the spectator who becomes participant to their passion and desires will take his place.
(Newspaper “Thessaloniki”, December 6, 1994)